Wednesday, August 18, 1999 Published at 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
Public fails to cancel appointments
Missed appointments mean longer waits for others
Patients who fail to cancel doctor's appointments in advance are costing the health service millions of pounds each year, a survey has found.
The Doctor Patient Partnership (DPP), basing its figures on a survey of 374 GP practices, estimates that 8,440,000 doctors' appointments are missed each year in the UK, at an estimated cost of £152m.
The survey found that each GP on average has 4.5 appointments missed each week - almost three per cent of the total.
In addition, thousands of appointments with practice nurses are also missed each week.
The DPP, set up by the British Medical Association and the Department of Health to encourage proper use of the NHS, has launched a "Keep it or cancel it" campaign, which aims to reduce the number of missed appointments by raising awareness of the extent of the problem.
Wipe boards for displaying numbers of missed appointments in the surgery at to be distributed to GPs across the country along with "Keep it or cancel" stickers.
NHS under strain
"At the end of the day each missed appointment means more time waiting in the surgery."
Rosie Foster, chief executive of the Association of Managers in General Practice, said attempts by GP practices to draw attention to the problem had categorically failed.
She said: "The results of this survey are simply shocking. It should be headline news in the national papers and become as high profile as drink driving campaigns."
Vanessa Bourne, chair of the Patients' Association, said: "Patients can make their own vital contribution to cutting waste in the NHS by supporting this campaign.
"A pound spent on health care can only be spent once and too many are wasted by missed appointments."